farmersdaughter | Feb 25, 200501:41 PM     1

Four of us ate at Pesce in Russian Hill recently. Overall, a very pleasant experience with some interesting plates. There are plenty of items on the menu that we didn't get to try, which would warrant at least one return visit, and the pleasant experience makes me wish it were in my neighborhood.

The restaurant is a (mostly) small plates Italian place, with an emphasis on seafood and Venetian cicchetti, the Venetian version of tapas. Service was very good—our waiter was friendly and pleasant but didn't interrupt the conversation or the flow of the evening.

We started with a dozen oysters, a mix of our local Hog Island, Quilcene (WA) and Nootka Sound (BC). All good, but I liked the Hog Island best (perhaps I'm a bit biased toward local oysters??). The oysters were from $1.25 to $1.75 each.

We had two salads, a caesar salad, which was pretty ordinary but the garlic anchovy toast served with it was very nice ($7), and a fennel & arugula salad with fresh shaved parmesan ($7), which is ordinarily one of my favorite salads but due to the bruised and slimy quality of the arugula, and the fact that it was overdressed, was disappointing. We shared a bunch of small plates:

Braised octopus salad with potatoes, celery and garlic lemon vinaigrette ($8) which was my favorite of the evening. I loved this dish, maybe because I love octopus, but it's often too tough. Octopus, like calamari, must either be cooked very quickly or cooked for a long time so that its texture mellows. The texture of this octopus was great, and the combination with the potatoes and the celery was perfect.

Seared dayboat scallops with chanterelles, light cream and truffle oil ($12) was also excellent. We ordered a couple of these and could have eaten more. The scallops were perfectly seared on the outside while not being overcooked inside, and the accompanying cream sauce and chanterelles went perfectly with the sweet scallops without masking their flavor. Truffle oil may be gilding the lily just a bit but it was not unwelcome.

"Drunken" tuna ($9) was for me a big disappointment. This was ahi braised in a red wine and tomato sauce with polenta. I am not one of those people that likes well-done ahi—I prefer it seared or raw. Once you cook it long and slow like this, it starts to remind me of canned tuna. The braising liquid was wonderful with the grilled polenta slab, however.

Squid ink risotto ($10) with grilled calamari and lemon lime essence was interesting. The risotto rice didn't seem to be arborio, and the texture wasn't right, almost like long grain rice--but since this was the last dish of the evening I didn't have time to analyze it very well. The calamari were perfectly cooked but the risotto could have used some salt.

We had two bottles of a light and tart red Refosco from Fruili, a light "picnic" wine which had enough acidity to be fine with the food, plus a half bottle of Villa Sparina Gavi from Piemonte (I believe it was the only white wine available by the half bottle).

2227 Polk Street near Vallejo
San Francisco

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